Relaxing at Wicksteed Park back in 2006 - but it wasn't all fun and games: prepare to be detrained!
Wicksteed Park started out back in 1913 as an open space set up by Charles Wicksteed, owner of a local Kettering engineering company, as a safe open space to be enjoyed by both his employees and other local families. Under the watchful eye of the Wicksteed Village Trust, it has grown from these humble beginnings into a visitor attraction with over 1.25million people passing through its gates each season.
We arrived at the park around 11:30 and went to sort out writstbands - a bargain at £10 for adults while children ('s parents) have to pay £16.
The first thing that hits you about the park is its quintessential Englishness. While most theme parks around the country have an overbearing American-commercialised atmosphere to varying degrees, Wicksteed feels very much like the country parks of old that we read our ancestors so enjoyed.
While there are sidestalls and concessions, there are no subtle forces pressuring you to buy. Amongst the rides are a boating lake, a sandpit and a fishing lagoon. Visitors are assumed to have enough sense to avoid the park's train that no protective fencing needs to be placed around the railway track.
This year is a special year for Wicksteed: it marks the 90th anniversary of the Trust and the 75th anniversary of the park's railway. The Waterchute, designed and built by Charles Wicksteed, also celebrates its 80th anniversary.
The world of amusement rides has moved on a lot since 1926, but the Waterchute remains one of the most popular attractions at Wicksteed. It's brilliant to see the grandfather of the log flume, the dingy (sic) slide, the Hopkins shoot-the-chute, the Intamin river plunge and just about every other type of water ride still entertaining park visitors with a simple slope and a bit of rope.
The penultimate area on our tour of the park is the Fairground. There guests find a small chairoplanes, dodgems and a classic astroglide right next to the first UK Rockin' Tug installation. It's a great area of the park for photo taking. Looking through the pictures I took, I can't understand how I managed to forget to take a single one in the Fairground. Oh well, on to the Playground area instead:
The train breakdown merely provided a bit of entertainment to end the day rather than being an annoyance. Maybe we all felt that way because of the relaxing atmosphere Charles Wicksteed's park still holds nearly a century after it was first conceived. After visiting I can see why others have suggested it would make a great venue for an ECC AGM at some stage. While it is obviously not the place to go for high-adrenaline thrill rides, it has more than enough to occupy a lazy day. I'll go as far as to say it has provided my favourite UK theme park day this season.